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David Matas: Israel at the UN Human Rights Council 2015

by David Matas, May 1, 2015



Going to Geneva means wandering into an alternative universe.  Everywhere else, people are concerned about a wide variety of issues - the nuclear weaponization of Iran, the rampages of ISIS, the collapse of Iraq, Libya and Syria, the bizarre behaviour of North Korea, the crimes of Sudan, the terrorism of Al Shabaab in Somalia, the Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and so on. 


In Geneva, at the UN Human Rights Council, the concern is primarily Israel.  To be specific, the focus is not Hamas and Israel, or the Palestinian Authority and Israel, or Hezbollah and Israel, or Iran and Israel, or the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Israel.  The focus is specifically Israel.  There are, to be sure, many references to Palestinians, but as victims of Israel.


When the Council began in 2006 the focus was only Israel, to the exclusion of every other country.  Now there are other countries which attract the attention of the Council. But by any measure - whether it be the number of resolutions, special sessions or studies, or extremes of language - Israel leads the attention of the Council hands down.  Israel is the only country with a special rapporteur whose mandate is indefinite and the only country with a dedicated agenda item. 


For this odd result, the blame lies in large part with the structure of the Council.  The Council, which was established by the UN General Assembly, consists of only 47 states, with regional blocs.  The Asian and African blocs are 13 states each. Their combination, 26 states, forms a majority of the Council.  Member states are elected by the General Assembly to the Council for staggered three year terms. Though the membership changes every year, a constant has been that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has formed a majority of both the Asian and African blocs. 


That is again true this year, 2015.  There are seven OIC states in this year's Asian bloc - Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.  There are also seven OIC states in this year's African bloc - Algeria, Ethiopia, Gabon, Maldives, Morocco, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. This majority of seven out of thirteen in both Asian and African blocs, with bloc voting, leads to OIC control of the Council.


Moreover, the OIC, on all matters relating to Israel, defers to the Palestinian Authority, which means in reality deferring to Fatah. The Palestinian Authority is a member of the OIC under the name of the State of Palestine.  The largest party in the governing coalition of the Palestinian Authority is Fatah. 


According to the Fatah Internal Charter, one of the obligations of membership is application of the Basic Charter.[1]  This Basic Charter, drafted in 1964, pre-dates the 1967 presence of Israel in the West Bank and Gaza and is not directed to that presence. 


The Basic Charter of Fatah of 1964 states these essential principles: "Liberating Palestine is a national obligation ..." "UN projects, accords and resolutions ... which undermine the Palestinian people's right in their homeland are illegal and rejected." "The Zionist Movement is racial, colonial and aggressive in ideology, goals, organisation and method." "The Israeli existence in Palestine is a Zionist invasion with a colonial expansive base, and it is a natural ally to colonialism and international imperialism.", and "Liberating Palestine and protecting its holy places is an Arab, religious and human obligation."[2] 


The Basic Charter lists as methods "Opposing any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine ..."[3] and " ... the Palestinian Arab People's armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated."[4] The Basic Charter lists as a goal "Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military, and cultural existence."[5] 


The Palestine National Council passed a resolution in 1998 that the provisions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Covenant which are inconsistent with the peace process commitment to recognize and live in peace side by side with Israel are no longer in effect.  This resolution has turned out to be not so much a subtraction of all previous anti-Zionist proclamations as the addition of hypocrisy.  One need only look at the behaviour of the Palestinian Authority delegation at the UN Human Rights Council, where demonization and delegitimization of Israel take pride of place, to see that this is so.


The UN Human Rights Council is, in effect, controlled by a non-state entity whose primary focus is attacking Israel.  This structure poses a problem for the UN, for peace, for human rights, for the Jewish community world wide and for Palestinians themselves. 


The distortion of the UN Human Rights Council into a UN anti-Zionist council discredits the UN.  It harms victims of real human violations because every minute and dollar spent at the UN on beating up on Israel is money and attention diverted from the plight of real victims or, in the case if Palestinians, the real cause of their victimization, which is the anti-Zionism Fatah and others trumpet.  Violator states welcome the deflection of attention from them to Israel.


Turning the UN Human Rights Council into a mouthpiece for war propaganda against Israel harms peace, not just because it reinforces anti-Zionists in their belligerence, but also because it becomes an alternative to negotiations. Anti-Zionists prefer resolutions from an international body which parrot their beliefs to resolution of their attacks against Israel.


For anti-Zionists, the structure and mandate of the UN Human Rights Council are a happy confluence.  Anti-Zionists attempt to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state as a continuation by other means of their wars against the existence of that state.  The abuse of the UN human rights vocabulary to target the Jewish state is for anti-Zionists an instrument of choice which, from their perspective, they have the good fortune to control.


The UN Human Rights Council demonization of the Jewish state reinforces and amplifies the demonization of the Jewish people world wide for their actual or even presumed support for this supposedly demon state.  The anti-Zionist vocabulary is worse outside the confines of the UN Human Rights Council.  But nowhere else is it given such international resp

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